Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Prince Harry backs Anzac Day initiative

Prince Harry joins with University of Canterbury Student Volunteer Army students in 2015.
Prince Harry joins with University of Canterbury Student Volunteer Army students in 2015.

An initiative asking New Zealanders to volunteer or undertake an act of service on Anzac Day has been backed by Prince Harry.

The Student Volunteer Army's Serve for New Zealand concept was first launched on the fifth anniversary of the February 22 Canterbury earthquake.

It came after a discussion between Prince Harry and the SVA during his visit to the University of Canterbury last year.

"When I visited New Zealand in May 2015, I was delighted to have the opportunity to spend time with the Student Volunteer Army in Christchurch, and to meet with veterans in Whanganui," said Prince Harry.

"I was particularly struck by the fact that, although very different in some respects, both groups shared a tremendous spirit of service and connection with their communities.

"This initiative is a way for Kiwis to remember the service of others in the past, and to continue that tradition of generosity and sacrifice in a practical way.

I would like to congratulate those who have already pledged their time, and encourage others to do the same."

So far more than 4000 New Zealanders have signed up to the campaign and committed to undertake an act of meaningful service - either in the lead-up to, or on Anzac Day, marked on April 25.

SVA founder Sam Johnson says the international support from Prince Harry and his family to Christchurch following the earthquakes has ensured movements like the SVA continue to have a positive impact."

During his visit, Prince Harry emphasised the importance of sharing the lessons we have learned from Christchurch and other disasters, such as Nepal, and to look at how to grow the movement to support and involve more people," Mr Johnson said.

Serve for New Zealand is about "coming together to do good, not just as a community but as a nation", Mr Johnson said.

The impact of Serve for New Zealand is already being felt in communities throughout the country, with various schools and organisations pledging their time.

An army of 206 students and 12 teachers from Omokoroa Point School in the Bay of Plenty spent an hour collecting rubbish and cleaning up their local peninsula this week - which Mr Johnson says is just one example of the many grassroots movements that have been inspired by the campaign.

Students from Limehills School in Southland gave a new lease of life to the Limehills War Memorial.

"We are striving to help younger and older people work together, and for the Student Army, and other such groups around the world, to learn leadership skills from those with real life experiences. As we discussed with Prince Harry, there is huge value in young people learning leadership skills from veterans who are highly trained team players," Mr Johnson said.

The Serve for New Zealand project is hosted by the Volunteer Army Foundation.

In the future, Mr Johnson says it may focus on other days of national significance such as Women's Suffrage/Kate Sheppard Memorial Day and a Parihaka Day.

To pledge to Serve for New Zealand: Anzac Day, register online at www.servefor.nz

- NZ Herald

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